“Once” is the story of what happens when a boy meets a girl and they make beautiful music together, literally. This movie combines two things I loathe, a reverence for music culture and “slice of life” or “hyper-realism” movies. Luck throws a guy (Glen Hansard) and a girl (Markïta Irglovï) in each other’s paths. They learn about each other’s musical talents and screwed up love lives. They play music, learn about each other and eventually record a song.
In those three sentences I gave away everything except the ending. Doesn’t sound like much of a plot, does it? It isn’t much of a plot. There is little to no character development, nothing in their lives changes, there is nothing to the movie. There are scenes that in the end make no difference to the movie. I find it insulting that a film maker, in this case John Carney is both the writer and director, studios, and actors would make a movie that I have to sit through that has no plot. I don’t want to watch a movie, a play or a television show that is about nothing. Could you imagine reading a book or hearing someone tell a story with no point? Listening to a song that has the last five measures missing? Why do we accept it as interesting from a visual media point of view? Shame on you for making me sit through an hour and a half of a story and then closing the book without giving me a reason to commit my time and energy to these characters. Shame on you John Carney for wasting my time.
The writer also has a hard on from musicians. So you can sing, guy, why should I care about you? Your singing isn’t skill enough to make you interesting or valuable. John Carney never bothers to give you a reason, other than their music, to give a flying fig about them. Sure he throws in their screwed up romantic relationships but in the end their relationships are just as useless as their music.
The movie looks like someone was sneaking a glimpse into their life, which goes along with the idea of the movie. It looks like a guy with a cheap camera was sticking his head around a corner and getting the footage as best he could. It does give the overall “hyper-realism” feel that John “Pointless Story” Carney was obviously trying to portray.
The guy, Glen Hansard, is a fantastic singer and guitar player. When you first see him on the street, you want to hear his song completely. He sings out completely. When the girl, Markïta Irglovï, joins in with him, the song feels complete. The first six or seven times I heard the song, I was taken by the passion of it. Times eight through nine hundred, the song started to activate my fillings. I know, most struggling artists focus on one song, but that doesn’t mean I have to be there for it. Continuing with the “hyper-ridiculous” style, the sound is dreadful. It is rude to have a movie about the making of a song where the sound breaks in and out. The fantastic voices of both actors are butchered by the sound recording.
The acting in “Once” is actually pretty enjoyable. The lead characters are sweet and realistic. Their interaction is surprisingly natural. There is a very cute series of scenes with a vacuum cleaner that acts kind of like a pet. The woman who pays girl’s mother is comical and sweet.
If this movie had wrapped up with a crazy thing like an ending, it might not have been half bad. John “Let’s play film maker” Carney is hereby on my watch list. If he doesn’t shape up soon, I’m going to find a huge pen with substantial mightiness and write a story that ends with an anvil over his head.
Don’t let anyone tell you this is a musical, it isn’t. A musical uses music to further the plot, it isn’t the entire plot. This is a movie about music. If you like music culture and “Seinfeld” you’ll love this movie. The only way I’d ever see this again